Scientists digging around roughly one-and-a-half miles below the Earth's surface in an Ontario mine may have just discovered the oldest free-flowing source of isolated, untouched water ever known. Though they don't know if anything has been living in this water, it contains both methane and hydrogen—key ingredients for life—and has likely been isolated in rock down there, untouched by Earth's atmosphere, for a staggering 1 billion years.
Or perhaps even longer. While tiny, micrometer-scale deposits of water have been found in minerals tens of millions of years old (the water was trapped there when the minerals formed, so it has been trapped for at least that long), free-flowing water living in interconnected pockets, cracks, and pores deep in the Earth's crust has never been dated as older than a few tens of millions of years old. When the scientists discovered the water in the Ontario mine, they felt lucky to have found undisturbed water that they thought was maybe even hundreds of millions of years isolated.
But an analysis of the water, which was found in 2.7-billion-year-old sulphide deposits within the copper and zinc mine, is full of isotopes that the researchers are fairly certain have not been in contact with Earth's atmosphere for at least 1 billion years, and possibly as long as 2.64 billion years.
Given the water also contains the ingredients for life, the researchers are now examining carefully extracted samples of the water to see if they contain microbial life or whether they might have in the past. The findings, whatever they may be, could have big implications for Mars, which we know once had surface water and very well might be full of deposits of untouched, isolated water like this beneath its barren surface.
Correction: An earlier version of this post contained a typo, stating that some micrometer-scale deposits of water had been dated "tens of billions" of years old. Which means they would predate the existence of the universe. It was supposed to read "tens of millions." The copy has been corrected to reflect this. PopSci regrets having accidentally attempted to undo decades of important cosmological research.
"tens of billions of years"...
so, those micron-sized deposits predate our current universe? Seems like that would be a big deal.
Do you guys ever proofread this stuff?
"Or perhaps even longer." isn't even a sentence.
"While tiny, micrometer-scale deposits of water have been found in minerals tens of billions of years old"
What universe did these minerals come from? Certainly not this universe(the only universe we really know about), this universe is at best 14 billion years old. Nothing has been around "tens of billions of years".
What's even worse is that our government probably paid for this research. What's a few tens of billions of years between friends, anyway?
@davek01521 this site is free and sometimes you get what you pay for.
Well we do have to suffer though some really poorly written flash advertisements every once in a while that could lag a super computer. I think it was the black and Decker tools or something like that.
>Do you guys ever proofread this stuff?
Anyhow back to my point, you gotta try and be nice to these people if you'r too rude they will decide that you are not welcome to comment any more and that's a sad day because you have to come up with a new name and how can you replace something as clever as davek01521?
The world is full of over analyzers wouldn't you say Dave? Why not just enjoy the story instead of criticizing everything?
Great correction at the end :-D
Yea, they writers are a sensitive odd bunch. I bet they would vent a good song on freedom of speech, but low the commenter that makes a joke, has a different perspective of just think the writer is wrong. He will be banished, lol.
And to say POPSCI is a serious science blog simply is not true.
I wonder what the scientist use in the article to determine time of an object. While they do seem to have a means of calculating something old, it does seem to have a variance of 1 billion to 2.64 billion years. The amount of time is long, so I can imagine it is a hard thing to pin down. It would be so cool if 100% factually they could find a kind of life way back then. I like to see that very much!
"ingredients for life"....meaning what? What we know life to be made of? Or what it takes to create life?
As far as I know they've gotten as far figuring out how to create life from non-life as they have turning lead into gold.
"...Scientists digging around roughly one-and-a-half miles below the Earth’s surface in an Ontario mine..."
I adoret this first sentence. It reads as such a casual thing to do as if a person was digging around at sand box, so casual, " digging around ", lol.
How does a person dig around one-and-a-half miles below the Earth's surface? That little statement could be a POPSCI science article in itself.
Change "about" to "roughly" and that fixes your problem. Also, they could tell how old it was by what compounds were in it, and compare those compounds to the relative dates that those compounds ceased to exist in the atmosphere. At least thats what it seems like, if you were asking a different question, I apologize
Who are you? Are you Clay?
Thank you for your above comment.
Canadia is a myth perpetuated by the government.
Um, are you a victum of posting in the wrong article, simply because of many tabs open on your browser, lol?
@Bagpipes100: They can indeed transmute lead into gold (see Wikipeda: transmutation). Creating life from non-life is another story.
@12: Digging around a mile under the surface is routinely done as part of the fracking process which I'm pretty sure HAS been a PopSci article. I don't think going another 50% would be that much harder in this case. In fact, there have been a few holes poked down to around 40,000 feet (Wikipeda: Kola Superdeep Borehole for instance).
If I remember correctly, radiocarbon dating measures the quantity of certain isotopes of carbon in a sample. Since the isotopes are known to decay at a certain rate, the quantity is accepted as an indicator of the age of the sample.
The reason for Raynre's mentioning Canada (Canadia) is because that is where the samples were found. It's a joke. What's the question?
Science is intrinsically entertaining and is fundamentally motivated by people wanting to entertain their curiosity. But for some mysterious reason serous science journals do the utmost to make it as boring as possible. They often go as far as to invent new complex words to describe simple things and concepts.
You will be much happier when you come to realize that popsci is entertainment with a primary theme of science and technology and not a scientific journal.
The only thing that really grinds me is when an author cannot fundamentally understand units of power and energy and that they are not the same or which one to use.
@lqmyler you are correct however radiocarbon dating only produces usable dates to about 60,000 years ago due to the relatively short half life. Other methods are employed beyond that some of which are very similar but just use elements with longer half lives. Other interesting methods are measuring the light emitted from crystals heated to 400°c or looking determining the polarization of the magnetic field when the rock was formed. One of the best methods is to find a layer of volcanic ash that may have covered the region or even the world, each eruption has a unique chemical fingerprint and with such a large sample size can be dated quite accurately.
I'm not a scientist but I think I understand a few basic principles of elements so I'm wondering why no one has commented on the apparent oxymoron in the article stating that scientists discovered the water holds elements for life one of which includes hydrogen - well duh? It wouldn't be water without hydrogen and as far as I know isn't water itself a basic element of life as we know it? And why'd they leave out oxygen?